SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Google is turning to its developer community to stoke interest in Google TV, its Android-based software platform for connected televisions. The company described tools and plans at its annual Google I/O developer conference here, enabling any Android or Web developer to release apps for the TV environment.
Google will create this summer a version 2.0 of Google TV based on the 3.1 version of Android, an upgrade of the Honeycomb version of Android for tablets. Developers who build apps for that platform will for the first time be able get access to a new Google TV area coming this summer to the Android Market, an online applications store.
Developers can use an existing Honeycomb emulator to test Google TV apps today. Google said it will release a Google TV emulator for the PC soon. The company also announced a program called Fishtank to provide starting this summer a limited number of hardware emulators for Google TV 2.0 to select Android developers.
In a separate session, Google described software libraries it is making available for Web developers to write code for TV apps. Developers packed into both Android and Web sessions where Google provided guidelines for writing apps for a growing category of connected TVs.
"Eighty percent of US homes have a PC, 90 percent have a cellphone but 99 percent have at least one TV," said Chris Wilson, a Google presenter at the Web session.
Worldwide three quarters of homes have a TV. Only two million are connected to the Web today, but that is expected to grow to as much as 43 million by 2018, Wilson said. In the US, TVs are viewed three times as much as PCs, he added.
The Internet giant announced Google TV with much fanfare at Google I/O a year ago. So far only two set-top boxes and one TV from initial partners Logitech and Sony are shipping with the software. Samsung and Vizio have Google TV products in the works, and other partners are in the pipeline, said Google TV developers here.
A session on Android apps for Google TV drew an estimated 750 developers with a long overflow line of others waiting to get in. A separate session for Web-based developers garnered a smaller but still substantial crowd. Google hopes increased developer interest will spark more interest in the platform from TV makers.
Yahoo beat Google to market with a connected TV platform, now used by a number of TV makers including LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio.
The Android session showed how developers such as Pandora and CNBC reused code from smartphone apps for Google TV. It also reviewed the significant differences between existing Android apps and the Google TV environment including the larger display and lack of support for touch, GPS and telephony on the TV software. One developer also noted the lack of plug-and-play support for devices such as USB Web cameras.
Google released applications for creating a virtual TV remote control on an Android or Apple iPhone. The company will release the source code for the Android application under an Apache 2 license, said Google developer Christian Kurzke, drawing enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
The company also plans to create a program that maintains a database of broadcast TV channels that developers can use as a resource in their apps. "There's a lot of other cool and interesting things we can do with the TV feed an in future, so we will expose more TV functionality into a TV library," said Kurzke.
"This is a really exciting time because we are enabling a market for apps on the TV for the first time," he added.
About 750 developers packed a session on Android apps for Google TV.